Saturday, September 29, 2012

Karl Heusner Biography

Biographic Notes on Dr. Karl Heusner, patron of the "Karl Heusner Memorial Hopsital" (KHMH).

KHMH, courtesy News5
When I was an intern at ISCR, one of my task was to write a brief historical description of the KHMH. I decided to make a visit to the Hospital and gather some information on how the hospital came into being and get a description of the facilities. The public relations officer was too busy to have met with me. I waited for at least 2 hours then decided to head out.

During my visit there, I decided to write down word for word an informational caption below a picture of Karl Heusner  which is posted in the Waiting Hall.

I found out that Karl Heusner was a Belizean doctor who was honored in the renaming of the new Belize City Hospital in 1995. 

Here's a transcription of the information at the KHMH:

Karl Heusner and Family
Dr. Karl Heusner was born in Belize in 1872 to German immigrant parents. He served the people of Belize for 63 years from his clinic on Regent Street, making calls by bicycles, horse and buggy and his black model T-Ford. The car became as much as his trademark as his black wool three-piece suit.

He studies medicine at Tulane, the University of Louisiana and University of Pennsylvania, returning to Belize in 1892 to start his own practice. Over the years, he became known in the United States, the Caribbean, and Central America for his expertise in tropical diseases and his ability to judge, without any equipment and using only his eyes, when cataracts were ready to be removed.

 Heusner Jnr. and Leah (Sister)  
Yet Dr. Heusner was fascinated by “bush medicine” incorporating remedies like “Jack ass” bitters into his prescriptions dispensed in glass bottles marked “K Heusner”. His patients believed in him, and his medicine, one man returned the bottle claiming someone had switched its contents because it tasted different. Save enough, a mistake had been made and the bitters had been left out.

But it was Dr. Heusner sense of humor and compassion that won the hearts of the patients. He delivered literally 100’s of babies, putting mothers at ease, and teasing young fathers. Payment was never a problem; the records after his death revealed he accepted just about anything in exchange for treatment, even a plucked chicken!

He was 88 when he died on 1 December 1960. Concerned about his patients to the very end, he spent his entire morning in the clinic, as jovial as ever, but around noon he calmly told his son Raymond he had chest pain and believed he was going to die.

On the day of his funeral 7 December 1960 flags were flown at half mast, shops were closed early and hundreds lined the streets of the cemetery. Three other doctors, Dr. Perez Schofield, Dr. Mclearr and Dr. John Reneau and the Hon. George Price were among the pall keepers.

Therefore years later, in 1995, the new Belize City Hospital was renamed after Dr. Karl Heusner as a tribute to his lengthy career in medicine and his dedication to the people of Belize. His descendants hope that all Belizean health care providers will be inspired by his skills and compassion and remember a little laughter can still be the best medicine.

Here is a newspaper clipping from The Reporter on Karl Heusner: 

Karl Heusner, The Reporter
Also, note, this particular newspaper says that Heusner passed away in September, whereas the notes at KHMH stated that was in December. It was likely December, because in that document the author seems to have interviewed his descendants and states the funeral was December 7.

Heusner was married to one of the seven daughters of John James Usher, a cousin of prominent Creole businessman and politician Archibald R. Usher, but he is also said to have had children with her sister Elsie May Usher. Karen Judd notes that these offspring “are not part of the family history” (“Elite Reproduction and Ethnic Identity in Belize,” 243 and 272 n. 32). Taken from: Macpherson, Anne S.(2007). 

There is also a commemorative stamp in memory of Heusner. Perhaps, someone has a higher quality image, feel free to submit/share.

Karl Heusner, postal stamp


KHMH, Official Site:
Nation honours Dr. Karl Heusner. (September, 10, 1995). The Reporter
"Karl Heusner". Informational Caption, KHMH, 2011. 
Macpherson, Anne S. (2007). From Colony to Nation: Women Activists and the Gendering of Politics in Belize, 1912-1982. USA: University of Nebraska.

Suggested Sources: 
National Heritage Library:
45 Million Dollar Hospital Opens. (1995). The Belize Scene. L-VF Hospitals, p. 6.
Heusner, June. (1994). Dr. Heusner cared for all his children. Amandala, No. 1357, p. 2
Hospital to open: move postponed. (1995). Amandala, No. 1357, p. 1
Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Fact Sheet. L-VF Hospitals. National Heritage Library.  p. 4.
Mai, Amalia. (1995). Modern Hospital: Neglected health care. The Belize Times, No. 3968, p. 2
Nation honours Dr. Karl Heusner. (September, 10, 1995). The Reporter, p. 11
Ramos, Adele. (1995). Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital to open this Friday. Amandala, No. 1357, p. 8
Belize National Archives:
Construction of the New Hospital, Monthly Report. (1992). ASR-275. Belize Archives, p. 1

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Road to Independence Ebook

The Road to Independence
While Europe struggled through the Dark Ages, the Maya developed a great civilization
The British incroporated teh Maya into the social structure of the colony
Mahogany exploitation required more slaves
Slave Revolt
After Slavery - Controloing Labor force
Indentured workers
Land reform
National symbols 

Ethnicity and Nation in Belize PDF

Reflections on Ethnicity and Nation in Belize

Assad Shoman

British Imperialism and the creation of Creole culture
Nationalism and its Effects
Aliens Lay Bare Underlying Tensions
Race, ethnicity and nation
Ethnicity in the Belizean State: Weapon, Shield or Camouflage?
Indigenous Rights and ―One Nation: Irreconcilable Differences? 
Missed Opportunities, Bad Turns, Future Shifts
Constructing the ―Creole‖ identity: the ―myth of origin‖

Protected Areas Assessment PDF

Protected Areas System Assessment & Analysis: PA analys; Meerman J. C. - August 2005    

Bird Sanctuaries
Archaeological Reserves
Extractive Reserves
Conservation management categories
Private protected areas
Total overview of protected areas statistics

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bruckdown Magazine

Bruckdown: The Magazine of Belize

Free at Last? 

Number 5, V 1
The long and short of a great whisky
Stop Press
Hoy Independencia, Manana Que? 
Inside, Meet the Press (part 2)
The Mudflap Blues
Notice to readers
All hail Orion by Robert Nicolait
Third World Commics
Art: Alive and well in Belize by Gayle Nicholas

Legal Opinion on Guatemala's Territorial Claim to Belize

Ebook: Legal Opinion on Guatemala's Territorial Claim to Belize

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Battle of St. George’s Cay, 1969 in 1898 (Letter to the Editor)

The Battle of St. George’s Cay, 1969 in 1898

I can recall first reading Knowing Down Our Own Thing about three years ago. I was captured by the opening lines “The masters of any society, legitimate or illegitimate, have the power to shape historical accounts of events to suit their ends”.

X Communication (Cover)
The next day I found myself purchasing a copy of X Communication (1995). The writing style captured my interest as did the life experiences balanced with some humour.

My focus, however, is to address issues which over the years came as a result of ‘fine tuning’ the perspective of the battle (“Tenth Perspective”, Amandala, 2007).

In 1969, you argued that the celebrations of Battle came about through the efforts of “the sycophantic Creole bourgeoisie” to legitimize their “supremacy in the civil service” (1995, 1).

You see, your 1969 thesis matches perfectly in the events of 1898 and deserve to be expounded upon.  

At the time of your writing, you were not deeply interested in all the details of the battle. The recorded facts are not in dispute (Judd 1989). The essential question was “When and why did the celebrations of the Battle take place? Why should we celebrate ‘slave loyalty’?” This is where the year 1898 becomes important. This is the year the Centennial Committee came into being.

Defense of the Settlers...
However, before 1898 it is important to note that as early as 1823, the Battle was being used to project the idea of the “family affair of slavery in Belize” (Defense ofthe settlers). This idea would continue to inform many of the “patriotic” citizens and pseudo-historians especially in 1898 but in contemporary times as well.

The pattern that emerged was that the Battle was used to harmonize the master-slave/labor relations that existed in the colony. More than that, the Centennial Committee used this celebration as a means by which they could validate their emerging Creole identity and assert their status as the Natives of the colony.

Scholarly works on this matter are those by Assad Shoman (1994), Anne Macperson (2003, 2007) and Karen Judd (1989, 1992). Their works are heavily based on evidence in the Clarion and the Colonial Guardian available at the Belize Archives in Belmopan.

There are many articles which base themselves on the idea that Simon Lamb initiated the Centennial Celebrations. However, Lamb is not listed as a Committee member (See Clarion, April, 1898).

In fact, one of the celebrations that Simon Lamb did spear head was the 1st August Emancipation Jubilee in 1888.  The formation of the People’s Committee came into being as a reaction “to the August Emancipation Jubilee by marking the battle anniversary a month later with a private evening entertainment,” that same year (Macpherson 2003, 116).

Clarion April 29, 1898
The notion that Simon Lamb led the 1898 celebration is chiefly based on “quick reference sources” at the National Library and Archives. In fact, I am led to believe that it is based on the unpublished manuscript of Ernest Cain. (Ernest Cain was the brother of H. H. Cain, editor of the Belize Independent and member of the local UNIA in Belize. The Belize Independent produced an article in 1934 “The Spirit of Simon Lamb” stating that he was the leader of the centennial celebration. The Belize Independent, as did the UNIA, at the time, also propagated the ‘shoulder to shoulder’ concept/myth?) 

Simon Lamb does appear in the committee, to my knowledge, however, by 1907, seven years before his passing in 1914.

I want to hypothesize that Lamb become active in its celebration upon realizing that the “Emancipation” celebration was not very well supported by the other members of the middle class and the colonial authorities. Interestingly, Emancipation Day continues to pass us by, year after year, without any celebrations.

It is interesting to read the speeches that were given on the occasion. No one dared to point out the inhumane treatment endured by the enslaved much less did anyone mention the enslaved resistance against the ‘masters’.

Actually, there were members of the People's Committee who even-though they could trace their African heritage through their maternal lines, never attempted to do so. No, there weren’t any benefits in doing that…

Here a few quotes from the Bishop of Honduras who on September 11th in 1898 addressed the congregation gathered St. John's Cathedral as a part of the Centennial Celebrations said:

Clarion Sep 16, 1898
"We are called to loyalty, dependence, promptitude and thanksgiving. The Baymen were loyal to their leaders, they would not desert their masters nor betray their country..." (Clarion,1898).

"Your ancestors have conquered this country for England, remember that England is the greatest civilizing and missionary power in the world and that she only conquers by the power of God"  (Clarion, 1898).

Dear Editor, in all this, I’m attempting to highlight the fact that your analysis was right on track in 1969 and to spur discussions on the matter. Yet, as I’m sure you have realized, it is important to point out that the symbolic meaning and significance of celebrating the 10th varies upon gender, class, and ethnic backgrounds through time and space.


Colonial Guardian 16 September. 1888. Belize Archives.

Clarion April 1898. Belize Archives.

Cain, Ernest. “The life story of Simon Lamb”. Excerpt from an unpublished manuscript. Retrieved from:

Defence of the Settlers of Honduras Against the Unjust and Unfounded Representations
of Col. George Arthur, Late Superintendent of the Settlement (London: A. J. Valpy, 1823). Retrieved from:

Lamb, Simon. Biography by National Heritage Library: and 

“Imagining the Colonial Nation: Race, Gender, and Middle-Class Politics in Belize, 1888–1898.” In Race and Nation in Modern Latin America, edited by Nancy Appelbaum, Anne S. Macpherson, and Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt, 108–31. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003

Judd, Karen. (1989). "White Man, Black Man, Baymen, Creole Racial Harmony and Ethnic Identity in Belize". Paper presented at the 15th International Congress, Latin American Studies Association, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Retrieved from:

Macpherson, Anne S. (2007). From Colony to Nation: Women Activists and the Gendering of Politics in Belize, 1912-1982. USA: University of Nebraska. 

Metzgen, Monrad Sigfrid (ed.), 1928, Shoulder to Shoulder or the Battle of St. George's Cay. Available at:

Ramos, Adele. “Founder of the 10th celebrations, Simon lamb, remembered”. In Amandala 

Shoman, Assad. (1994, Revised 2000). Thirteen chapters of a history of Belize. Belize: Angelus Press. 

Vernon, L. (1994) I Love to Tell The Story. Heritage Printers, Belize City. Availabe online:

* Unfortunately, Google has blocked us from downloading "free ebooks" (outdated copyright materials). I'm not sure what is the plan there, but it seems it's a country restriction. However, feel free to email me for a copy. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"Okay for Now" Book Review

Okay for Now by  (2010) is an intriguing novel. This is coming from someone who doesn't generally read novels. 

However, I decided to relax my mind from reading another academic work in favor of a novel. This is much needed if you reach a point of dreaming that you are stealing a couple history books from a store. History Books! Then again, my history professor would remark that if you want to be a historian you gatta sleep and eat history. 

I read the entire novel today, which was rather surprising on my part. I usually don't complete most novels I start reading. I won't go though all the basic features of a book review, many of those are online. 

Setting: "Stupid Marysville" NY, USA. 1968-69

Schmidt was able to craft up quite a piece in his novel. He infused many themes that led me from smiling to sadden then smiling again. Thus, the title Okay for NOW. Life has many challenges and no one knows this better that fourteen year old Douglas. His life is filled with ups and downs. The book ties in such themes as: 

Dysfunctional family: His father is easily irritated, abusive and yet with a strong zeal to be the bread winner. Doug endures a lot of emotional abuse from his father. The one time he decides to challenge his dad, he realizes with his brother advice, that it isn't worth it because his mom ends up crying all night. 
Self Esteem: Doug suffers from the fact that no one really appreciates him for the most part. His own dad went out to put a tattoo "Mommy's Baby" on his back as birthday gift. Could you imagine? 
War: Doug's brother returns from the Vietnam war traumatized both physically and emotionally but he recovers, gradually. 
Humanity: Doug's begins to develop a strong desire to be considerate of others. He strives to restore pages from The Birds of America 
Mentoring: A few inspiring words from a person especially a teacher can make a person life and dreams worth living. I agree. 
Library: This probably adds to my academic interest, there are many scenes that takes place in the library which is where Doug develops his artistic skills and romances with young Lil. 
Humor: There are many little instances of humor.
Romance: It's young romance - starting out as the typical I don't like you type of conversations to powerful lessons in love with Doug saying to Lil that he'll always be by her side at the endding lines. (It appears as though Lil had cancer in the end.)
Art: Each chapter begins with an image from John James Audubon  which keep me in Belize as I wonder if this was linked with the Audubon Society here. However, it also became quite tedious to hear about art work - composition, stability, dimensions etc. etc. 

Those with an additional interest in birds, art, and baseball would really really enjoy this book. But, if you aren't, it is still a good read. A nice read. 

Three favorite lines: 

"Why can't poet's say what they want to say and then shut up?" (I do like some poetry by the way.) 
"When things start to go pretty good, something usually happens to turn everything bad..." 
"Things will work out... Things always do"

This book reminded of the thrill of reading novels and why I'll try to do so every now again :)

If you'd like to read this novel feel free to send me an email. 

Life can be bitter but it's also soo sweet. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

National Gringos Day

Today, as I participated in the painting of a park on North Front Street, Belize City, I realized that perhaps, a more down to earth way of saying "National Service Day" is "National Gringos Day" . 

In Belize, volunteerism is not something we regularly chose to do. They are many organizations both governmental and non-governmental organizations which depend on foreigners to come to our assistance. They bring a passion for service, gifts, and cash. People tend to admire these "white people". They're generally very welcomed into our communities and homes.

From my experience, most volunteers are from the United States. They're service in Belize helps in the success of many projects and social services provided in our country today. They assist in the construction of churches and services such as care for the orphans.

At times, I wonder how this impacts our social psyche, creating a sense of dependency, This dependency I've observed causes people to not take the initiative in carrying out projects without the help of the foreigners. Additionally, it may very well impact our desire to want to be more Americanized in our way of thinking and being. This is not discourage foreigners from their services.

Today's National Service Day was as a result from the George Price Centre initiative. I for one admire this idea. I hope it takes root in the September events and in the Belizean culture. Volunteering is very much lacking.

We all have some level of skills and talent which we can use to contribute towards the betterment of our community and nation. If our skill is to write poetry - we can form a peotry club at one of the House of Culture/Library/School. If our skill is playing basket ball - we can train the younger ones. Etc. Etc.

Community Service should be one of the prime values inculcated to students. But it goes beyond the school building itself. Each time we throw garbage outside the bus - we are teaching. We are teaching others that it's okay to do so.

Imagine, if we would all chose to pick up the next piece paper as we walk on the street. People are observing you and will likely be impacted by your behavior. We are all role models. People are looking up to all of us Belize - why not make them proud, why not teach them values that will positively impact the life that our predecessors will live.

Now today, was the start of this initiative, there was a good momentum of activities across the country. Hopefully, in years to come the average Joe will get involved and more Belizeans will develop the desire to volunteer.

Some people have contested this initiative arguing that the Government should have given it the 19 as a Holiday. However, I am quite satisfied with the idea of all our heroes on recognized the National Heroes and Benefactors Day March 9 (formerly Baron Bliss Day). This is because public holidays cost our economy potential revenue.

Plus, I think the concept of a day of service would have been more in alignment with Price's personality and vision for the country.

-------------------------------------Sep 20 2012 ---------------------

As I was making my way to the Archives I noticed some posters which were hang on a fence likely as a part of the service day initiative.

There were many posters, some had quotes from G. P. others had some short phrases and poems. These were likely written by the primary school students near by. These are very interesting and will be historic documents in the future to understand how the children viewed Price. One of the poster asked the question "what did he do? - He saved us".

There is certainly a boost of nationalism and nostalgia when people talk of Price. While this is good, it reduces the role that other men and women played in the labor and nationalist movement which were part of the movement towards Independence. (Anyhow, that's for another discussion.)


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Captured and Freed

The September 15th 1779 Capture of Caio Cosina (St. George's Cay) 
by Rolando Cocom


The settlers of Belize, then known as the Bay of Honduras, endured several attacks by the Spaniards before the infamous Battle of St. George's Cay. There were attacks in 1716, 1724, 1733, 1747, 1751, 1754, 1779 and the aforementioned Battle of 1798 (Shoman 2000, 28; Burdon, 1931, 128-129). 

Caio Cosina 1764
The September 15th 1779 attack, however, is significant for various reasons such as: 
1. The Baymen along with their ‘property’ (boats, enslaved Africans) were captured and imprisoned
2. The Bay (Belize) remained virtually uninhibited from 1779 - 783/1787
3. It impacted the development of the 1783 Treaty of Versailles 
4. It influenced the Settlers decisions and desire to defend or evacuate the Settlement in 1797-98
5. It demonstrated the role of the Bay (Belize) as a marginal colony in Anglo-Spanish policy and 
6. It likely was one of the greatest occasions of runaways in Belizean history  

The 1779 attack was as a result of a recently declared war between Spain and England in May which lasted until 1783 with the signing of Treaty of Versailles (Sorsby 1969, 252). 

The Shoremen (British settlers in the Mosquito Coast) had been informed since August of 1779 via correspondence from Jamaica that the Spaniards were preparing an attack and were requested to inform the Baymen (Ibid, 253).

However, that message did not reach the Baymen in time. Superintendent James Lawrie (from the Mosquito Coast) had failed to notify the Baymen. It is stated that “Lawrie was in the back country, and the inhabitants of Black River withheld the information” from him (Ibid).

An Eyewitness Account

British Settlements in Mex and C.A. shown (Thompson 2004)

Edward Felix Hill who was a Baymen present at St. George’s Cay, at the time, managed to escape the attack and flee the isle. He later, along with other Baymen and enslaved Africans, made their way to the Mosquito Coast. In a letter to the Colonial Office he described the capture:

On Wednesday September 15th, 1779, at half past six in the morning the inhabitants on the Key were alarmed by seeing nineteen Spanish pettiaguas to the Northward. At eight o'clock the vessels came to anchor the Westward. The principal inhabitants boarded the larges pettiagua and were told that war had been declared between great Britain and Spain on May 11th.

At nine o'clock the Commandant of Bacalar arrived in a captured English schooner, and landing on the Key told the Inhabitants they were his prisoners and that their goods and valuables were confiscate. They would be marched to Merida then probably shipped to Havana. He promised that if they went quietly their persons, papers and apparel should be untouched and "great tenderness should be shown to the Ladies as well as the Mustie women and children and a due attention on his part be paid to protect them from violence. . . He likewise told them he had 600 soldiers then with him which the writer of this doubts very much, even by one third, and indeed those he brought with him had but little the appearance of soldiers many of them being Indians and the whole of them very indifferently furnished with Cloaths, Accoutremeants, etc." (About 140-160 landed). 

The Commandant's two sons and three or four more were the only persons that acted as Officers or wore uniforms: the armed Indians being mostly in frocks and trousers and some without the latter.

About 250 of their slaves were taken on board by the Spaniards "mostly house negroes" since those that cut the logwood were then up the River Belize (quoted in Burdon 1931, 128-129).

Another colonial office record cited by Bolland informs us that:
There were 101 White people on the Key, when it was taken & 40 of mixed Colour… about 200 or 250 negroes, men, women, and children mostly House-negroes… the principal part that carry on the Logwood & Mahogany cutting business were then up the River (quoted in Bolland 2003, 31).

Bolland also makes reference to a report which stated that “30 white men and 250 slaves from the Bay arrived at the islands of Ruatan and Bonacca early in October” (quoted in Bolland 2003, 31). These were some of the settlers who were not captured at the Cay or who managed to escape.

It is interesting that the Spaniards and Baymen were able to communicate. Perhaps, they had translators or were bilingual?

The Other Side

Roberto de Rivas Betancourt, the Governor of Yucatan, was ordered by the President Matias de Galves of the auidiencia of Guatemala on 15th August 1779 to eject the English from the Mosquito Coast (Sorsby 1969, 252). However, Rivas forces rather than attacking the Mosquito Coast attacked the Bay of Honduras (Belize) (Ibid).

President M.Galves
This decision to attack the Bay is linked to the fact that it was closer in proximity and was also under the influence of colonial authorities from the Mosquito Coast and thus Britain. Additionally, Spanish authorities generally attacked the Bay when war was declared against England as in the previous years listed.

However, the rationale for the capture given by the Spaniards account is that the Baymen had built forts at the Belize River, Caio Cosina (synonymous with ‘Cayo Cosina’, ‘Cayo Kitchen’, or ‘St. George’s Cay’), and that the British were making threats to Bacalar (Lanz 1905, 132; Asturias 1941, 47).

This justification for the attack is based upon the 1763 Treaty of Paris which allowed the Baymen to extract logwood but prohibited the establishment of governance and forts and declared Spanish sovereignty (Thompson 2004, 23).

However, P.A.B. Thompson makes the observation from a colonial correspondence from the Mosquito Shore had stated that the demolition of Belize River fort was carried out in 1764 (Ibid, 24). Furthermore, another colonial record stated that St. George’s Cay was “defenceless” in 1779 (Bolland 2003, 30). Perhaps, the Spaniards as would any hegemonic power, both in the past and present, developed this as a justification for war.

Governor Rivas had set sailed to Bacalar with 800 men before making a successful attack on the British camps on the Rio Hondo (Asturias1941, 48). Unable to make his travel with the 800 men on canoes, he then used the Baymen vessels to attack St. George’s Cay (Ibid). These facts are consistent to the account by Edward Hill quoted above (Burdon 1931, 128-129). However, one significant addition is the 50 more enslaved persons said to be captured on the Cay, placing them at a total of 300 (Asturias 1941, 48; Lanz1905, 133).

Bolland hypothesis that the Spaniards had likely made attacks on the mainland river holds true with Spanish historical sources (Bolland 2003, 31; Lanz 1905, 132). Besides taking the captives and their property at the Cay, Rivas and his men burned more than forty “rancherias” or logwood/mahogany works along the New River (Asturias 1941, 48; Lanz 1905, 133).

The Spaniards (Yucatecans?) were unable to take all the prisoners given the limited space and due to fear of approaching vessels believed to have been sent by the Governor of Jamaica (Lanz1905, 133).

Fort Omoa, Honduras 
This was likely September 16th when the Lt. Col. John Dalrymple set sailed to Belize from the Mosquito Coast (Sorsby 1969, 254). In the Bay they met three English frigates commanded by Captain John Luttrell (Ibid). Perhaps, upon seeing the approaching vessels the Spaniards decided to retreat without taking more captives. The Shoremen never reached the mainland but instead were joined by some Baymen and proceeded to attack Fort Omoa (Ibid).

Slave Auction in Merida 

Superintendent  Despard, 1784-89
It is generally believed that all the Baymen and the enslaved Africans who were captured in 1779 were all sent to the Merida and then Cuba (Shoman 2000, 30).

However, Bolland points out that they were “marched [from Bacalar] to Merida and some [were] sent to Cuba” (Bolland 2003, 31). The latter are believed to have returned after the signing of the 1783 Treaty of Versailles (Thompson 2004, 28). In a dispatch of 1786 by Superintendent Despard, the number of woodcutters in the Bay is put at fifty five (Ibid, 29). Therefore, there is a vast gap between the number of persons taken captive and those who returned (especially in regards to the enslaved population).

Mathew Restall informs us that many of the captives were auctioned in Merida. He states:

Church of Jesus -  Baptism in Merida 
During Christmas week of that year fifteen Africans were branded "YR" (for Yucatan and Rey, the king), and then auctioned off in the courtyard of the Palacio de Gobierno in the heart of Merida. The governor ordered that the new owners rename the slaves, as they were recorded at an auction with their English and African names. There was another auction in Feburary (1780) and further sales in April. Whole families, seized from logging settlements and ranches along the Sibun river, were sold to new owners in Merida (Restall 2009, 23).

Palacio de Gobierno, Merida
Restall work has significant implications towards the historiography in Belize. His work allow us to better understand the experience of runaways to Yuctan (treatment and adaptation) and towards piecing the “other side of the story” in the various Anglo-Spanish conflicts in the Bay. 

Masta Geh Ketch - Wi Free

The capture of prisoners at St. George’s Cay did not constitute the majority of population in the Bay at the time. St. George’s Cay was where the ‘principal inhabitants’ such as the “English settlers with their Wives Children and Domestics” lived (quoted in Bolland 2003, 30).

In 1779, a dispatch sent from the Bay before the attack estimated the population to be comprised of about 500 English and with an enslaved population of three thousand, of whom “there may be 500 to be depended on” (Ibid).

Maya World (Thompson 2004)
Throughout the period of slavery in Belize, the Baymen were always concerned about the loyalty of the enslaved. The enslaved consistently “demonstrated their hatred of slavery and, by their actions frequently threatened the very existence of the Bay settlement” (Bolland 2003, 29). As early as 1745, a letter described to the colonial office speaks of the Baymen's inability to identify the amount of enslaved who “may prove true in the time of engagement” (quoted in Iyo, 2000, 8).

Records exist of the enslaved population seeking asylum in the Yucatan as early as 1768 when twenty three of them escaped from a logwood work on New River (Bolland 2003, 26). They also sought freedom in the Petén area (Iyo, Tzalam, and Humphreys 2007, 202). It is not surprising then that in the 1779 capture, it was observed that “that there were several negro in arms, who had formerly run away from the inhabitants of the Bay” (quoted in Bolland 2003, 28).

Indeed, there is a need to create a listing of the large number of dispatches at the archives which supports this thesis (See Public Meeting records at the Belize Archives or Burdon’s Archives).

Forest Scene (Eric King/NICH)
In addition, based on the 1779 dispatch prior to September 15th, about 2,400 of the enslaved population are unaccounted for after the capture (Bolland 2003, 31; Lanz 1905, 133). It is highly probable that they took the opportunity to escape the settlement during the various attacks on the rivers and after capture of the Cay (Ibid). Besides escaping the settlement, some may have decided to establish maroon communities.

This hypothesis is reinforced by the fact that the amount of woodcutters and enslaved population after the 1783 Treaty was exceedingly low (Bolland 2003, 31; Thompson 2004, 28).

Moreover, Restall analysis supports this, he informs us that “Cay Kitchen [the Bay/Belize settlement] slaves continued to appear in the city's baptism records to 1784, creating the last spike in slave imports into the colony and one of the biggest spikes in its history” (Restall 2009, 23).


After the 1783 Treaty of Versailles and 1786 Treaty of Paris, the settlement became more established peeking with the evacuation of over 2,000 people, (including Shoremen, American loyalist, and enslaved Africans). The Settlers were permitted to extract both logwood and mahogany, boundaries were defined, and the first superintendent was assigned to the Bay. However, the enslaved population continued to resist the inhumane practice of slavery.

It is important to highlight that the rationale for expanding the boundaries of timber extraction in the 1786 Treaty was not heavily dependent on the Baymen requests (as stated in a wide array of works). It was rather profoundly based on British diplomacy. The British were not in a position to enter another war with the Spaniards for the Mosquito Shore. The idea of expansion of territory in the Bay for the evacuation of the Mosquito Coast was used as a scape goat for the British to “save face”. In reality, the Mosquito Coast was the area of most interest to the British with the end goal of controlling trade by linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, a plan which was never exploited (for more information, please see reference to Sorsby 1969).

This article has shown the complexity of the 1779 capture. The 1779 capture generally been cited simply as another attempt of Spanish expulsion of the Baymen allows us to better understand the position of the Bay in Algo-Spanish policy, and better understand the early development of the Bay and enslavement. We are further challenged to reinterpret our view of slavery in Belize not by the accounts of the oppressors but by the actions of the enslaved themselves (Iyo 2000, 8-9). 

The subsequent attack that occurred against the Baymen was in 1798. The Baymen were informed of the pending attack since March of 1796 (Encalada 2010, 4). The Baymen remained largely divided as whether to to defend or evacuate the settlement in the June 1st 1797 Public Meeting (Ibid). This was certainly influenced by the fact that some of the Baymen were captives in the 1779 attack (Ibid). Interestingly, one year after the vote to defend the settlement, there were about 53 Baymen who were still requesting assistance to evacuate in August of 1798 (Humphrey 2010, 16). (This perhaps helps us to understand why the 98 Battle did not develop as a grandeur celebration as it did until one hundred years after).

It is an interesting coincidence that 19 years after the 1779 capture of St. George’s Cay, it were the Spaniards who would surrender on a September 15th at the Battle of St. George's Cay. (See my post on the development of St. George’s Cay Day Celebrations). 


Asturias, Francisco. (1941). Belice. Guatemala: Tipografia Nacional de Guatemala. Available at:

Bolland, Nigel. (2003). Colonialism and resistance in Belize: essays in historical sociology. Mexico: Cubola. [First Ed. 1988]

Burdon, Sir John Alder (1931). Archives of British Honduras, Vol.1. London: Sifton Praed and Co.

Encalada, Nigel and Awe, Jaime (Ed.). (2010). St. George's Caye, the Birthplace of a Nation. Belize: ISCR/NICH

Humphreys,  Howard. (2010). "The Battle of St. George's Caye". In "St. George's Caye, the Birthplace of a Nation", edited by Nigel Encalada and Jaime Awe. Belize: ISCR/NICH

Lanz, Manuel A. (1905). Compendio de historia de Campeche. Campeche: El Fenix. Available at: and

Iyo, J. E. Aondofe. (2000). Towards understanding Belize’s multi-cultural history and identity. Belize: Ministry of Education and the University of Belize  

Iyo, Aondofe, Tzalam, Froyla, and Humphreys, Francis. (2007). Belize New Vision: African and Maya Civilizations, heritage of a new nation. Belize: Factory Books

Thomson, P. A. B. (2004). Belize: a concise history. Malaysia: MacMillan Caribbean

Restall, Matthew. (2009). The Black Middle: Africans, Mayas, and Spaniards in Colonial Yucatan. California: Standford University. Excerpt available at:'s%20cay%22%201779&f=false

Sorsby, William S. (1969). The British Superintendency Of The Mosquito Shore 1749 - 1787. University College, London. Unpublished Thesis. Available at:

Shoman, Assad (2000). Thirteen chapters of a history of Belize. Belize City: The Angelus Press Limited. [First Ed. 1994]